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The Grand Master (left) and Masonicare chairman RW Bro Andrew Fraser (right) welcome Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Roza Sage MP, Member for Blue Mountains and NSW RFS Superintendent David Jones.

Fire is one of the biggest predators and destroyers of lives and properties in the world and man has fought for thousands of years to find a means to contain the damage and destruction.

Freemasonry and modern technology have combined with the presentation of a special thermal camera, the Dräger UCF 7000, to battle fires and save lives in and around Sydney.

The camera acts as a heat sensor and can accurately pinpoint the heart of a fire and also locate people trapped in a bushfire or a burning building or lost in heavy bush.

The Grand Lodge Charity, Masonicare recently donated three of these special cameras to the Valley Heights Rural Fire Brigade station and is currently making similar donations to Port Stephens, Southern Highlands, Lake Macquarie and Hawkesbury.

After last year’s devastating bushfires, Masonicare began a special fundraising campaign which raised $180,000, and after weeks of research decided on the heat camera as a practical means of assistance to firefighters.

Dräger Safety Pacific Pty Ltd, supplier of the cameras, will provide full training to firefighters on the efficient use of the cameras.

‘The RFS has willingly agreed to include the Masonicare logo on the cameras as well as the names of the district lodges which will be a constant reminder to people using the equipment of who donated it to them. It is a very positive way to demonstrate “Freemasons in action” and how we “Proudly help our local Communities” – the very essence of Masonicare’s ethos,’ said VW Bro Tony Craig, Deputy Chairman, Masonicare.

Former Valley Heights brigade captain and still active member Steve Price believes the cameras will make a substantial difference in current firefighting methods and saving trapped people.

‘It has a number of uses and is easy to handle. It can identify the main source of a fire and will make it easier and safer for us to find hot spots. It is often quite difficult because of thick smoke to locate the main source and this camera will do it for us,’ he said.

‘Quite often the smoke prevents us from seeing and a firefighter could be placed in danger by walking into the most active part of a fire or become trapped by a direction move. Using this camera will make fighting much more effective.

‘Sometimes it’s easy to step over or past a body in thick bush and as the camera registers body heat, which is different to a house or bushfire, it will help us save more lives. It will make a similar location if a person is trapped or unconscious inside a burning building.’

Price said it would also be of great advantage when backburning is done, particularly if it takes weeks to complete the operation in mountain areas.

‘It will prevent the backburn getting away from us or re-igniting, especially in remote areas, by showing if any hot spots still exist on or under the ground. It will also assist those cameras used in helicopters, information that has not been assessable by people on the ground.

‘The camera will be on standby in the Mountains to start with and can be used for any incidents where required. We need to get to the fields quickly and the camera is simple to collect and so easy to handle. It just projects in digital form what it can see and that’s great.’

Well before last summer, Masonicare decided to assist in some way by accessing its Disaster Relief Fund and starting the special appeal to the 330 individual lodges throughout the jurisdiction.

These fundraising activities ran from October until January and included golf days, sausage sizzles, BBQs, garage and car boot sales and collections amongst the members of the various lodges across NSW and the ACT.

Several Board members spoke to senior members of the Rural Fire Services (RFS) and lodges in the affected areas on the best method of using the money before deciding on the thermal imaging camera.

‘All this thanks to the tangible efforts of Freemasons willing to dig deep to help others in less fortunate circumstances than themselves,’ said VW Bro Craig.


Features, functions and advantages of using the Dräger 7000 Thermal Imaging Camera

  • Weighs only 1.4kg – supplied in kit meeting NSW RFS Operational Requirements
  • Enables the operator to ‘see around corners’
  • Easy to use with one hand – simple ‘touch of a button’ application switch enabling easy selection of different operating modes – three additional modes allow better information and decision-making in any situation: Fire (firefighting); Persons (search and rescue); Thermal scan (‘hotspots’ visible at a glance)
  • Excellent image quality – better overview, more details – 160x120 pixels and 2x zoom
  • Snapshot function provides temporary freeze-frame image analysis
  • Integrated laser pointer simplifies communicating hazard information eg. hotspots, to other team members and clearly defines the path of attack
  • Integrated single image, video and sound recording functions – useful for later analysis – USB 2.0 interface enables images to be transferred to PC
  • Virtually indestructible casing – heat, water and dust resistant
  • Safe in potentially explosive atmospheres - does not provide an ignition source
  • Extended battery operating time of up to 4 hours

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, September 2014, pages 24 and 25.

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